Lightbody v. Town of Hampton

Decision Date31 July 1984
Docket NumberCiv. No. 82-277-D.
Citation618 F. Supp. 6
PartiesRose E. LIGHTBODY, Administratrix of the Estate of Louis S. Lightbody, Sr. v. The TOWN OF HAMPTON.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Hampshire

Law Offices of James J. Kalled by James J. Kalled, Ossipee, N.H., for plaintiff.

Shaines, Madrigan & McEachern by John H. McEachern, Portsmouth, N.H., Burns, Bryant, Hinchey, Cox & Shea, by Donald R. Bryant, Dover, N.H., for defendants.


DEVINE, Chief Judge.

Plaintiff Rose Lightbody, Administratrix of the Estate of Louis Lightbody, and a citizen of Massachusetts, sues defendant Town of Hampton, an incorporated New Hampshire town, for the wrongful death of Louis Lightbody. Jurisdiction ostensibly is founded upon diversity of citizenship.1 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Hampton moves to dismiss Count II of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P. Matters outside the pleadings have been presented by both parties and considered by the Court, so the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment as provided in Rule 56. Rule 12(b), Fed.R.Civ.P.

Count II claims that Hampton, in contravention of decedent's civil rights, willfully and with wanton neglect confined decedent in a jail known by defendant to be inadequately designed and supervised, resulting in decedent's death by suicide. The complaint in brief notes that on or about November 29, 1980, decedent was arrested by members of the New Hampshire State Police for driving while intoxicated, N.H. RSA 262-A:62. State Police officers brought decedent to the Hampton Jail and left him in the custody of the Hampton Police. Decedent was placed in a jail cell, and subsequently hung himself. Administratrix alleges that the confinement of the decedent in a facility that defendant knew was inadequately designed and supervised to prevent suicides, which deficiences defendant refused to correct despite four prior suicide attempts; and about which the Chief of Police of Hampton prior to decedent's suicide stated that it was just a matter of time before someone hangs himself at the Jail, amounts to a deprivation of life and person in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment, and cruel and unusual punishment under the Eight Amendment.

The facts are as follows. On November 29, 1980, at approximately 10:30 p.m., the decedent, Louis Lightbody, was stopped and arrested by New Hampshire State Troopers Colon Forbes and Robert Bruno for driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor on Interstate 95 in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. Lightbody failed the field sobriety test performed at the request of the Troopers. The Troopers elected to transport Mr. Lightbody to the Hampton Police Department in lieu of transporting him to either a local hospital or another jail facility.

The Town of Hampton maintains a Jail at its Ashworth Avenue station. The lockup is used by the Hampton Police Department as well as the communities of Rye, Seabrook, and North Hampton. The New Hampshire State Police also use the Hampton facility. The staffing and supervision of the Jail varies during the year due to seasonal fluctuations in the numbers of people using the New Hampshire seacoast area. During the summer, Hampton staffs its Jail with at least two booking officers. Off-season, the Jail is not staffed; the only person in the station throughout a shift is the dispatcher.

From the time decedent was placed in the cell until he was found hanged, the only Hampton employee in the station was the dispatcher. Hampton Police Department Rules and Regulations provided:

5.13 ... the prisoner shall under no circumstances be left in the custody of any civilian employee of the department except when absolutely necessary in any emergency.

The facts do not indicate whether the dispatcher was a civilian employee.

Upon arriving at the Hampton Police Department, where a blood alcohol content test was to have been performed, it was learned that the breathalyzer was inoperable. The decedent was transported to the Seabrook, New Hampshire, police station where a breath test revealed his blood alcohol content to be .30. The Alcoholic Influence Report indicates decedent had earlier taken Valium and was diabetic, last having taken insulin that morning. He was transferred back to the Hampton Police Department and was booked and held pending bail.

The arresting officers, Hampton and non-Hampton, book their own prisoners, following Hampton's booking procedures, so far as they know them. Although Hampton has printed rules and regulations relating to jailing procedures, these are not made available to non-Hampton officers. Once a prisoner is placed in the Jail and the cell door closes, he is the responsibility of the Hampton Police Department. The Hampton Police Department learns that a prisoner has been placed in the Jail when the arresting officer tells the Hampton dispatcher. In this case, the dispatcher was advised that the decedent was in his cell. The shift supervisor is to be notified by the dispatcher if he is out on patrol when a prisoner is placed in the Jail. This is not a procedure that is always done. In this case, the dispatcher did not notify the shift supervisor that decedent had been brought in. The shift supervisor first learned of decedent's presence when asked to respond to the suicide.

Hampton requires that the arresting officer enter on a Daily Prisoner Log his name; the prisoner's name, age, and cell number; the time of arrest; the charge and bail; and whether his phone call had been made. The arresting officer is to complete a Uniform Arrest Report. Neither the Daily Prisoner Log nor the Uniform Arrest Report calls for any information regarding a jailed person's blood alcohol content, his physical or mental condition, or whether he had been taking any medications. There is no requirement that the non-Hampton arresting officers ascertain whether there is a Hampton officer physically present in the station before incarcerating a prisoner. Although the arresting officers might stay in the station after placing the person in a cell, they have no continuing responsibility for his care. The Troopers who had arrested and jailed decedent were still present in the Jail when decedent committed suicide.

After being booked, decedent was advised that his bail would be $275. He was allowed to make a telephone call per Hampton Police Department Rules and Regulations, Jail Procedure ¶ 5.01, and telephoned his mother, Rose Lightbody, informing her of his arrest and the amount of his bail. Trooper Forbes then spoke to Mrs. Lightbody who stated that she would contact someone to bring bail to the Hampton Police Department. This information was passed on to decedent by Trooper Forbes. Shortly after the booking, Trooper Forbes received a telephone call from Mr. John Lightbody, decedent's brother, who informed the Trooper that he was on his way to Hampton from Massachusetts with bail for the decedent. Decedent's belt, shoes, and all personal belongings were taken from his person by the Troopers following Hampton Police Department Rules and Regulations, Jail Procedure ¶ 5.2. The Troopers allowed him to keep his socks, pants, undergarments, shirt, and a down vest because of the cool temperatures in the cell area. Lightbody was placed in a holding cell at approximately midnight.

From the time of his initial stop on Interstate 95 through his being booked and placed in a holding cell, a period of approximately one and one-half hours, decedent was cooperative and friendly. He was able to effectively communicate, dialing the telephone himself and speaking intelligently with his mother and the State Police Officers. His only stated concern was getting bail so that he could get to work at the Seabrook Nuclear Plant. There were no evident outward signs of anger, hostility, frustration, or depression, nor was there any outward indication that Lightbody might bring harm to himself or another person.

At approximately 1:30 a.m., on November 30, 1980, Lt. Dean Glover of the Seabrook Police Department entered the cellblock area for the purpose of jailing several prisoners transported from Seabrook. Once inside, Lt. Glover found Mr. Lightbody had committed suicide using his shirt to hang himself from the cell bars. Resuscitation efforts by the Hampton Police Officers and the Hampton Police Emergency Medical Technicians were unsuccessful.

Hampton alleges that Lt. Glover entered the cellblock in order to check the cellblock prior to entering with prisoners, and that this check was performed within one and one-half hours after decedent had been put in his cell. Hampton Police Department Rules and Regulations provided:

5.04 All prisoners shall be visually checked at least once during every two hour interval to assure their safety and well being.

Plaintiff argues that decedent was not found during a cell check for the purpose of determining his well-being, and points out that some Hampton Police employees did not know of or regularly conform to the two-hour cell-check requirement.

According to Hampton Police Chief Robert Mark, department regulations covered how to deal with a person who exhibited a predilection toward suicide. There are no guidelines used to identify a potential suicide. The only way the Department "knows" is if the prisoner says he is going to commit suicide. In that event, cell checks at fifteen-minute intervals are instituted whenever a person gives any indication of possible suicidal tendencies. Drunkenness also was sometimes a factor in determining frequency of checks. Any and all clothing and personal effects are promptly removed from such prisoners. According to the Chief, when the arrest is made by the State Police or some other town, the Hampton Police Department relies on their observations and recommendations in regard to suicide. If the arresting officer does not believe that a person shows a tendency to commit suicide, cell checks are not...

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4 cases
  • Elliott v. Cheshire County, NH
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Hampshire
    • November 9, 1990
    ...Unknown Police Officers, 791 F.2d 1182, 1186 (5th Cir.1986); Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir.1984); Lightbody v. Town of Hampton, 618 F.Supp. 6, 11 (D.N.H.1984). Plaintiff alleges that Trooper Ranhoff was deliberately indifferent to Guy's medical needs by failing to advise CCH......
  • Carapellucci v. Town of Winchester
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • February 3, 1989
    ...See Cupit v. Jones, 835 F.2d 82, 84 (5th Cir.1987); Norris v. Frame, 585 F.2d 1183, 1187 (3d Cir.1978); (Lightbody v. Town of Hampton, 618 F.Supp. 6, 11 (D.N.H.1984). In the context of the failure to provide medical care, recognition that pretrial detinees have the benefit of a more protect......
  • Bowen v. City of Manchester
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Hampshire
    • August 16, 1991
    ...that police so abused the decedent that they thereby violated constitutional due process. Plaintiff's reliance on Lightbody v. Town of Hampton, 618 F.Supp. 6 (D.N.H.1984) is misplaced. Without question, the Lightbody case reached the result plaintiff seeks. It held that the estate of a pret......
  • Mayer v. Town of Hampton
    • United States
    • New Hampshire Supreme Court
    • August 7, 1985
    ...District Court has found a cause of action when a decedent committed suicide while in custody of State officials, Lightbody v. Town of Hampton, 618 F.Supp. 6 (D.N.H.1984), so that the § 1983 action appears to be separate from State claims. We intend to express no opinion on this issue, howe......

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